Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Romantic Heart

And so, in bad weather, my birth week came to an end.  I wasn't certain I would go to work, but there was nothing else to do, so late (my boss being on vacation), I wandered in.  My new secretary had covered my office door in balloons and bunting and a birthday sign.  It touched me, really.  Later, there was a small celebration, a singing of the birthday song and a cutting of the cake.  I am very embarrassed by this sort of attention, but over the years, I've learned to absorb it with a demure smile.  I was able to work a little and to leave early.  Big plans.  I went to the gym.  I had a text from a friend who said he wanted to take me for a cocktail, but it was wet and cold and I said that he should come over for a glass of champagne instead.  He's a good guy with whom to swap tales.  He's a good one for giving presents, too.  He showed up with a bottle of very good scotch.  Before we tasted that, however, and before we'd finished the first glass of champagne, my tenant came over with her son.  If you have followed the blog for a lot of years, you will remember him as the boy in many of my early photographs.  He is fifteen now, that awkward boy-age, and he has begun to have some of those early affairs of the breaking heart.  I poured the tenant some champagne and we all sat and talked for a long while, eventually breaking open the scotch bottle.  And then, as things naturally do, the evening came to an end.  My friend excused himself with a quick tilt of the glass.  We had not gotten to speak of what I had wished, me looking for my own worldly advice from someone who has lived it fiercely and with an intensity that gives him a unique perspective on "affairs," but truly I was only looking for a good story.  After he left, the tenant said she had to go to tend to the laundry.  Her son said he'd be along shortly.  And so. . . he began to tell me his tale. 

There is this girl, you see, and it surprises him that she has had any interest in him at all.  She is one of the "it" girls at school, a true beauty with a heritage, etc.  But, he said, he is thinking that he made a mistake.  She is having her quinceanera this weekend, and he is taking her on a date.  I believe it is his first.  They will have dinner on the Boulevard and then go to see a movie.  It seems, however, that he does not really want to see her any more, and so. . . .  There is another girl who is not an "it" girl that he likes now.  Oh, she is not as pretty, and she is slightly overweight and maybe even a bit homely, but he is happy when he is talking to her.  He leaped upon a word I said--"relaxed"--and pointed his finger in the air.  "That's it," he said.  "I feel relaxed around her."  I began to chuckle a little and said, "I may not be the best one to give advice about love.  My track record is full of failures, I think."  But as I had been earlier, he was looking for something, a word or a phrase or an attitude, perhaps, that would give him insight into how to navigate the world using his own emotional map.  It is better to throw those things away, I think, but what can you do? 

"Look, Bud, most people are unhappy because they don't know what they want.  It makes them miserable.  Try to know what you want.  It makes things much easier." 

That is the sort of vague advice that sounds specific.  It sounds both universal and personal.  Arcane Philosophy 101. 

I am a horrible man, of course.  I knew what I wanted.  It is always the opposite of what I am supposed to want, I think.  If this were truly a free world. . . but he seemed to be pondering what I had just said and it made some sense to him if I could judge by the look on his face. 

I had asked his mother earlier in the evening how he had come to be such a romantic boy.  "He got if from me," she said.  "Bullshit!" I exclaimed.  "You don't have a romantic bone in your body!"  She laughed and agreed.  "Is his father romantic?" I asked.  Neither of them thought so.  "Well, then, you must have gotten it from me."  I had filled his childhood with fantastic stories and music and picture books and art and odd artifacts and old adventure movies and t.v. shows.  I took him on treasure hunts with real buried treasure chests.  I had allowed him to do dangerous things that "normal" children are not allowed to do.  I had taken him at an early age to a reef where we snorkeled with tropical fish and barracudas.  I bought him his first big boy bike, his first skateboard and surfboard.  Oh. . . the list is rich and goes on and on and on.  I had filled him with romance, I thought, and now he is a kid who plays in a jazz band, the sort of music he grew up in the house with and which was playing as we talked. 

I had ruined him. 

"Look," I said, "I can only tell you this.  The only true people for me are the ones who get their hearts broken.  Many don't, but they are mere automatons.  It is O.K. to live with a broken heart or one swollen with love.  Either way, life is vivid.  It is full of textures and moods and atmospheres, you know?  You go to bed feeling something strong.  Your dreams are rich.  And one day, if you are lucky, you will find just the right one." 

I had to throw that last part in, I thought.  I hoped so, anyway. 

It was getting late, and I had not eaten.  I had come home from the gym and had champagne and scotch and my blood sugar was getting really flaky. 

"You want some eggs?" I asked him.  "I haven't eaten.  I have to eat."

"No, I'm not hungry." 

He came into he kitchen with me.  "Look, here is how you do it."  I put some coconut oil in the skillet and let it melt.  Then I cracked three eggs into the pan with one hand for show and let them begin to fry. 

"What are you going to have with them?"  His asking that kind of surprised me. 

"Oh. . . I don't know."  I was looking through the cabinet and came across some Amy's Organic Soup.  "Soup," I said, and dumped it into a pot.  The eggs were sizzling and I flipped them with a spatula and a rapscallion toss. 

"I think I'll make some eggs when I go upstairs," he said. 

There you go, I thought.  An appetite was a good sign. 

"I want to learn how to cook," he said.

"That's good.  Women love a man who can cook."  I had prepared all his meals but for a few over the years.  His mother was not a good cook at all. 

As I dished the food, he said he was going.  We hugged it out, and then he was gone. 

Eating alone, I had plenty to think about.  Some of it was sad, but none of it was bad.  I texted his mother the address to the station we had been listening to and added:

"Tell him I left something out.  You must know what you don't want as well as what you want.  One without the other is incomplete.  He needs to be certain both ways."

She wrote back that she was letting him read the text.  O.K. 

The day was almost over.  I could forget about it now, I thought.  "It" covered a lot of ground.  There was a lot to let go of.  I probably would.

1 comment:

  1. As far as I can see from this story, you ruined him so much that he wants to hear from you if it's 'okay' to choose for a girl who is less pretty and rich. Even when he feels better in her company.
    You definitely ruined him. And you keep trying to ruin him more by not telling him what he wants to hear and only give some vague shitty advice instead.

    But at least there is still hope for him!
    If I was his mother I would keep him far away from superficial fools like you, giving him less chance to feel empty later in his life.
    Who knows, he might even find a woman that will stay with him for longer than her puberty lasts...

    Much luck and a late happy birthday anyway, you hopeless case!